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My Stephen King Story

Updated: Jul 6

Like many of you, I've been a Stephen King fan and Constant Reader since my first taste. For me it was reading Pet Sematary as a 13-year-old in 1983. While I enjoyed many of the films made from his work, Stand By Me absolutely floored me - and showed the world he was far more than a master of horror. The Shawshank Redemption was released just as I moved to Hollywood in 1994 to study screenwriting at UCLA. That film's Director and Writer, Frank Darabont, proved an excellent guide for me. Darabont, like King, is kind enough to leave bread crumbs in writing about the process of making his art. Those crumbs are gold. 

In the shooting script for The Shawshank Redemption, Darabont wrote about how he met Stephen King. In brief, Darabont was an unknown writer who humbly asked for the opportunity to adapt and direct King's short story, The Woman in the Room in 1980. King was a hot author by then, with Carrie, The Shining and Salem’s Lot already under his belt. King had just begun his Dollar Baby program, where he allowed young/student filmmakers to adapt his short stories for non-commercial purposes in exchange for a dollar - just to make it legal. Darabont's adaptation was so good the deal got renegotiated so he could put it out commercially. King asked Darabont: "What's next?" Darabont said he wanted to adapt King's novella, Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption. King said, they'll never make that. The rest is history.

I followed in Darabont and Andy Dufresne's footsteps, cold-writing to King persistently with my request to adapt Luckey Quarter, another of King's short stories that deals with hope more than horror. He eventually said yes. I signed the contract and sent him a dollar and a quarter - for good luck. 

Around the same time I got the rights to Luckey Quarter, his publisher, Simon & Schuster announced the American Gunslinger contest. The contest was run in conjunction with the release of Wolves of Calla, the fifth installment in King’s Dark Tower series. For those who don’t know, it’s briefly described as The Lord of the Rings meets The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. It’s now comprised of eight books, plus a novella, The Little Sisters of Eluria and is widely considered King’s magnum opus.

The contest was for fans to make a creative adaptation of a pre-selected short section from one of the first four novels in the Dark Tower series. My entry, Roland Meets Brown, from the first novel, The Gunslinger, won. This afforded me the opportunity to meet King in person at the Simon & Schuster Manhattan offices. We watched Roland Meets Brown together. Afterward, I sat with King for about 10 minutes in what felt like a bubble, talking about favorite books, films and a fair amount of baseball - his Red Sox and my A’s had a pretty good rivalry back then. He told me he was impressed with my work and asked, “What’s next?” I told him of my desire to make The Long Walk. He said to send him the script. A few months later, I did…just after Frank Darabont requested and was given the rights to the same story. 

My quest shifted to meeting Frank Darabont…

Part two coming soon. In the meantime, please check out the Day One storytelling programs for The Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me and The Green Mile (coming soon!).

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So many exciting spin offs of the ever evolving ship that is Day One. The storytelling opportunities are endless with this many great films to choose from.

The more I read about the life experiences of the founder of this Yellow Submarine. The more I feel it to be an honor and a privilege to be a part of the YAX family. A place where we learn to write interesting stories that matter. Yes, and we also learn to write stories that make dreams come true.

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